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More Than Just a Sequel. A Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Review

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

The release of Marvel Studio's Black Panther was like nothing before.


The impact it left on a 2018, post Trump world where black life felt more precarious than usual was nothing short of a cultural reset, and that's no overstatement. It was the first time a black led film was given such a huge production. It gave little black boys and girls everywhere characters to look up to and slingshotted the world of Wakanda into the mainstream.


The reputation of the first film alone was enough to bring high expectations for its sequel, but after the tragic passing of its star Chadwick Boseman, a hole was left in the black community and the future of the franchise was up in the air. Director Ryan Coogler was now left with the unenviable position of fulfilling crazy high expectations, honoring his friend, and guiding the multi-billion dollar film franchise to a new future.


Needless to say, the sophomore film Wakanda Forever had unimaginably big shoes to fill.


Still from Marvel Studio's Black Panther

I'm happy to say Wakanda Forever lives up to its predecessor in many ways while improving on its weakest parts. Ryan Coogler returns to his already rich, beautifully crafted world with more passion, heart, and freedom than ever before. Coogler's growth as a director is immediately apparent from the first moments to the credits. He packs every scene with beautiful symbolism and engaging visuals that's sure to keep anybody enthralled.


Coogler, alongside Marvel's executives choose not to recast T'challa, instead having him pass off screen to an unknown illness. We rejoin Shuri (Letita Wright), Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Okoye (Danai Gurera) in the Afro-Futuristic nation of Wakanda mourning the passing of their king and protector, T'challa. With the nation in mourning, Wakanda is at it's weakest and after a new people emerge from the depths to threaten the hermit country, our heroes are left to face a threat they didn't think possible.


Wakanda Forever manages to tell a gripping story of warring nations while juggling themes of grief, loyalty, vengeance, the human nature, and the effects of colonization. It may seem like a lot from here, but the film does a great job at carefully handling its mature themes without feeling too stuffed or too dark. I personally wish it went a tad bit further in its exploration of these themes.

 

Shuri takes up the lead role this time around. A tall task for actress Letita Wright. It's a big departure for her character who predominately played a comic relief role in the past. Shuri is now a bitter, mournful young woman who rejects the mantle of the Black Panther after her brother's passing. Choosing instead to completely bury herself in her work. Wright completely delivers playing the character perfectly. She captures Shuri's sadness while also keeping elements of her playful and joking nature. Wright is able to handle the small, quiet scenes with as much tact and care as the big emotional ones.

Still from Marvel Studio's Black Panther: Wakanda Forever


Tenoch Huerta does a stellar job as the threatening antagonist Namor / "Ku'kul'kan." A winged mutant (yes, as in X-Men mutant!) and ruler of the secret civilization of undersea people called the Talokanil.


Namor is a perfect foil to our protagonist, Shuri. Who just might have more in common with the undersea king than she would like to admit. Namor easily enters the ranks of the MCU's best villains, joining the likes of Thanos and Killmonger (Black Panther goes two for two.) The minds at Marvel Studios brilliantly retcon Namor's original Greek origins in Atlantis in favor of Meso-American heraldry that serves to expand the universe into Latin American cultures and sensibilities while also neatly avoiding the inevitable comparisons to DC's Aquaman. Still from Marvel Studio's Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Danai Gurera and Angela Bassett once again shine in their roles as Ramonda and Okoye. Both the general of the Dora Milaje and the sole ruler of Wakanda recieve far more screen time and development having been promoted from side characters to deuteragonists. The film gives the actors more room to play and audiences more time to get to know the characters. Both actresses bring a level of emotion not yet seen in another Marvel Cinematic Universe project. Every actor perfectly weaves real emotion into their performances that bring home the most gut wrenching of scenes and frequently brought the theater near to tears.

Still from Marvel Studio's Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Wakanda Forever also introduces newcomer Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams. A young genius who gets caught up in the conflict courtesy of United States government meddling. She's a little forgetable at times and I found myself occasionally questioning her inclusion. It is abundantly clear that Riri is mostly included to set up the Ironheart Disney+ series set to release late 2023. Despite this, the character still serves a good supporting role to the leads and acts as a sort of comic relief and Thorne is enjoyable to watch in the role. I personally am very interested to see where they take the character in the future even if this was a questionable introduction.

Still from Marvel Studio's Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

 

With wonderful writing, emotional acting, beautiful cinematography, and a score I could rave about for hours. Wakanda Forever is a perfect tribute to both the character T'challa and the man Chadwick Boseman, who ecapsulated what it meant to be a hero on and off the screen. Wakanda Forever is a truly expectional film that succeeds in immersing its audience into the life and struggles of the characters. It is a standout addition not only to the MCU's admittedly lackluster phase 4, but to the entire universe.


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is currently streaming on Disney+

Still from Marvel Studio's Black Panther: Wakanda Forever


Production Company: Marvel Studios in association with Walt Disney Pictures

Streaming Service: Disney+

Release Date: 11/11/2022

Rating: PG-13

Score: 4.5/5

Reviewer Name: KeSean Lloyd

Date of Review: 11/15/2022

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